Red Dwarf X: Trojan spoiler-free review

Review Pete Dillon-Trenchard 17 Sep 2012 - 16:51

Red Dwarf returns to Dave in October with a brand new 6-episode series. Here's Pete's spoiler-free review of the opener, Trojan...

10.1 Trojan

When Dave announced that it would be making a new six-part Red Dwarf series after 2009’s Back to Earth, it’s fair to say that many fans were cautious in their optimism; the three-part special had taken the characters down a much more dramatic route, and seemed to mark a shift in direction for the Boys from the Dwarf, one which took them away from their sitcom roots. Would Red Dwarf X continue this trend?

Put simply: no. Trojan, the first episode of Red Dwarf’s tenth series, immediately feels more like the classic show than anything that’s been broadcast in nearly twenty years, with a pair of opening scenes which each contain some strong jokes and build to neat crescendos for the characters. And yet, nothing here is without a purpose; both of these scenes contain gags that have superb pay-offs later in the episode - there’s one Cat moment in particular about halfway through the episode which is up there with some of the show’s greatest scenes.

It’s hard to say too much about Trojan without giving away the plot, but it’s a Rimmer-centric episode, with some ties to the past which will please long-term fans whilst not alienating any of the new ones. The entire final third of the episode is a treat, with lines and visuals that border on parody of another much-loved franchise, and some excellent guest performances from Susan Earl and in particular Mark Dexter, who brings out the worst in Rimmer in all the best ways. 

Easily the star of the episode, though, is Danny John-Jules as Cat. Seeming far more comfortable in the role than he has for a very long time, Danny steals pretty much every scene he’s in, thanks in part to a script filled with some classic Cat lines.

One of the most talked-about aspects of the new series is the return of the live studio audience, and the difference is palpable; all of the Dwarfers have a sense of energy and fun in their performances that can only come when there is a crowd to seek approval from; and there are several jokes whose timing is visibly improved - one early Rimmer gag in particular is clearly drawn out for a moment or two longer than it might have been without a second wave of laughter to guide the performance.

Also returning after long absences are model shots, as well as specially-composed incidental music by Howard Goodall. As always used to be the case, these are used sparingly but effectively; Goodall’s score adds an extra punch to the scenes in which it appears, particularly towards the episode’s climax. And the model shots are little short of beautiful; this is Red Dwarf for the high-definition age, and clearly a lot of love and effort has gone into making the small rouge one ship-shape (pun intended).

The design is actually stunning all round; as you may have seen from the trailers, the action takes place in a more confined area of the Dwarf, redder than ever before. And it’s hugely detailed, with monitors constantly showing information and intricate set details that before would have gone unnoticed; if one series is going to persuade me to buy a Blu Ray player this year, it’s Red Dwarf X.

Trojan isn’t a perfect episode of Red Dwarf; there are a few jokes in the episode which are played a little too broadly, and at times the Lister subplot wanders into mediocre observational comedy. There are also a couple of slightly jarring references to 21st century life; that said, the first series of Red Dwarf alone contained references to Moss Bros, Kevin Keegan, Helen Shapiro and Norweb, so perhaps this is simply another aspect of the show’s early days making a return.

Because really, it does feel like a concerted effort has been made to take the show back to its early days. From the pleasingly Series 3-like appearance of the episode title to the small-scale, character-centric plot and barrage of jokes, you get the impression that Doug Naylor has been watching a lot of repeats on Dave whilst writing this new run, and that’s no bad thing.

This is Red Dwarf as it should be; four blokes (Well, one bloke, a hologram, a cat person and an artificial intelligence) in space, with humour that comes not from an increasingly outlandish set of circumstances (There’s no dinosaurs on this ship) but from the characters themselves and how the situations they find themselves in affect them. It’s fun, it’s funny, and if we can have another five like this then Red Dwarf XI (and beyond!) is going to be welcomed with open arms...

Red Dwarf X begins on Dave on Thursday the 4th of October at 9pm.

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Reading this review has made me very, very happy! Can't wait now!

Less happy here, it wasn't much cop since around series 6 and the last few proper series were dreadful in the extreme. It used to be my favourite show when I was around 13, but once robert llewellyn got involved with the writing it went downhill fast.

Or maybe I just grew up a little. Anyway, there's so little decent TV on that I'll give it a go I'm sure, although I expect to be disappointed. Like with most comedy shows, soon the characters turn into caricatures of where they started with jokes too easy and endlessly repeating.

Is Lovett back for these?

Norman Lovett won't be back as he had a falling out with the production, something to do with money I think? It's rumoured that Holly will make an appearance in one form or another. Maybe played by Hattie Hayridge, or perhaps a totally new Holly...

Well the reviewer compares it to RD of 20 years ago which is when series 5 was airing and anything before series 6 is fine in my book. 1 & 2 were the best but 3, 4 & 5 were pretty good too.

I think its harsh to say 7 and 8 were both pretty good not up with the early stuff I agree. 9 was a bit of a disappointment but from trailers it definitely looks like the small rouge one is back at full throttle. If you go in with the attitude of expecting to be disappointed then my advice would be to not bother at all. Ad kryten would say 'if you don't Go sub a program loop you'll never get a sub routine' could not have said it better myself

This review has made me a little happier. In fact, I do believe that I'm actually looking forward to it!

Yay! I love this show! Hopefully there is also something that clears up the current wierd plot that started with the ending of series 8 and then was compounded by the series 9 gloss over. Also lot's of Cat is great news (and Holly with some new genius vs computer senile moments hopefully!), it works so much better when you feel like all the Dwarfers have a repore rather than handing those 2 characters a couple of lines per episode and leaving the other 3 the bullk of the script (although they are all brilliantly played characters). Series 3-5 are still my favorites so I hope they can get back to that feel without having to force the script into unatural comments about Kochanski / current plot etc.

I look forward to Red Dwarf X even more now!

I read the team said he should leave his calendar open for "Back to Earth" and then never called him to tell him he wouldn't be needed after he cancelled something.

Notice that this review echoes the exact sentiments of those that saw this episode being recorded. They have all said how much they liked it and how they felt it was a return to form. This really isn't a coincidence and you don't have to go into these shows looking for a reason to hate them.

Having rewatched the entire lot again recently it is surprising how much I enjoyed 7 and 8 this time around. They may not be on a par with earlier seasons but they are still better than some of the so-so sitcoms the Beeb has thrown our way in the last decade (My Family & My Hero - I am looking at you...)

Only recently started watching this, quite funny, wasn't sure if I should continue watching the rest but I think I will. With any luck, by the time I've finished watching the previous series', Series 10 will have finished and I'll be able to watch in one go.

Yes, I had the same experience - when viewed in a modern context, the whole lot is far better, even the latter seasons.

IMHO both 7 & 8 have got very good bits and very bad episodes - seaon 7 got roundly slated but Tikka to Ride and epideme are right up there with the best Red Dwarf episodes AFAICS

I need this to be good. I used to love the Dwarf (still do really) but those "Back to Earth" episodes were shocking. Too many old comedies are being brought back and are not living up to the past.
I hope the Dwarf isn't going to be one of them

This is Red Dwarf as it should be; four space, with humour that comes not from an increasingly outlandish set of circumstances (There’s no dinosaurs on this ship) but from the characters themselves..."

As it should be. This sentence alone makes me very happy and now very excited to see it.

I have never wanted anything more in my life not to be rubbish, from what i hear it all sounding positive !!!!

Think i'll rewatch the whole series on Netflix before this airs.. Can't wait, love the dwarf!

Fingers crossed.

Didn't really care for BTE,
but it wasn't a prometheus style death knell either.

The Dwarf can still be righted.

(Which is more then can be said for Sir Ridley or the alienS franchise.)

I remember watching seasons 7 and 8 and was like "why do people hate this?" a lot of the episodes were funny and clever.

Bang on, I agree.

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